Inspiration

Inspiration has been an ongoing topic of discussion in my house lately.  My husband and I are both very drawn to things that spark inspiration – I would guess everyone is drawn to those things as well, but I wonder if everyone stops to appreciate these little sparks.  I would bet that in a world of fast everything – food, fashion, technology – that it’s getting harder and harder to not only recognize the sparks but also to appreciate them when they are recognized.

We’ve had an unexpectedly slow December with my husband being laid off in the first week of this month.  It’s a big blow for sure, and if we allowed ourselves to sink into worry and stress it would make this month horrendous.  I mean it’s the busiest and most expensive month of the year and here we are wondering how we’ll be able to pay the bills and buy the groceries let alone fill the bottom of the tree with presents.  We could definitely dwell on the negatives but that would only make it worse.  Instead our conversations and focus has been on our future, our goals and our dreams.  Somehow, though there are moments of stress, we’ve been able to stay positive and truly enjoy each day.

I’ve been thinking about this today.  I wonder what it is that we are doing that makes this time less stressful than I feel it should be, and I think it lies in our desire to fill our lives only with things that encourage and inspire us.  There are a few specific things that we have been doing, some of them for a while and others we are just starting to do.

A big place of inspiration for both of us is our home and how we fill it.  When you come to our house the first thing you would probably notice is the plants.  I’ve lost count at how many plants we now have, but it’s well over 50 and will continue to grow.  Plants inspire us to live closer to nature and to live simpler lives.  I’ve recently taken time to fill our office with inspirational art, things to remind us where we want to go and what it takes to get there.  We don’t fill our home with clutter but think carefully about each and everything we bring into it.

We both take time to listen, read, or watch things each day that inspire us to do better and be better.  My husband searches through Pinterest, reads things he finds on Facebook, and watches shows or documentaries that inspire him to overcome obstacles.  I belong to a bookclub dedicated to self development.  We read 10 pages per day and use an app called Marco Polo to discuss the book.  I also read my Bible daily and make sure I’m spending time in prayer.

Something else we are both passionate about: sparking inspiration in others and I think this goes a long long way when it comes to having a positive outlook on life.  If you know me, you know I love Instagram.  It’s been a love of mine for almost as long as it’s been around.  Over the years my use of the app has changed and now I mostly use it as an online journal.  Each thing I post will more than likely have a twist of positivity because I feel strongly about building people up and letting go of negativity.  If I can’t post something positive I probably won’t post that day.  My husband is the same way with Facebook, he only shares what he feels will encourage others.  You can also listen to him on the phone daily, talking to his friends and speaking words of life and encouragement.

I’m beginning to see the absolute importance of inspiration in our lives, and I truly think it’s the key to why we can stay positive in a stressful time.

What’s your daily inspiration?

Rest First


When I imagined this maternity leave I had ideas that it would be similar to my last maternity leave.  My first maternity leave I ended up focusing on being healthy, and it was the first time I had felt healthy since high school.  It was like a body reset and I learned a lot about myself and my health that year.  I’ve mentioned several times that when I went back to work I really lost that feeling of being healthy due to stress and all that comes with that.  When I dreamt of this maternity leave I dreamt of losing all the weight by the 6 month mark.  I dreamt of loving being in the kitchen and inventing good healthy food.  I dreamt of walking every day and being super active and busy.

However, this maternity leave has been so much different.  I still have 15 pounds of weight to lose to get to pre-pregnancy weight and 15 more to lose to get to my ideal weight.  I can count on two hands how many walks I’ve been on in the last 3-4 months and my husband can attest that I’m not cooking like I used to.

Reflecting on how different these past six months are compared to what I thought they would be it’s easy to think I let myself down, that I didn’t motivate myself enough, that I was lazy.  All these thoughts try their hardest to creep in and bring me down but the truth is that I’ve been listening to my body and I’ve been honouring what it’s telling me.

REST

I’m giving myself time to rest and heal and that’s looking a lot different than I thought.  Honestly I thought that healing would mean exercising and building physical strength but my body has been showing me that healing first starts with resting.  This last week I’ve been feeling a rhythm start to our days, my body has been allowing for that to happen.  Up until recently I had no idea what I would be waking up to – would it be an Ashley full of energy or an Ashley unable to move much at all.  The past couple weeks my energy has been fairly consistent – even with Eden having VERY unpredictable nights.  So I can see how beneficial it’s been to listen to my body, to go to bed early, to stay home when I needed to, to relax when I was feeling run down.  With each passing week and month I gain a little bit more endurance and strength to just get a little bit more done each day.  Of course having a baby that is growing and maturing also helps with this but I can also feel the change in my body.  In August I barely had the ability to clean my whole house one day and be up moving a lot the next.  I couldn’t stand for longer than an hour doing things in the kitchen because my body just hurt all over and didn’t have the endurance.  This past month I’ve been up the majority of days canning, cleaning and just keeping busy and my body feels pretty good! Not awesome, but not awful and that’s a happy medium that I gladly welcome after a couple years of feeling terrible.

One thing I’ve been incorporating that last couple months is taking Sundays off.  That means that mentally I allow myself the space to not have a list of to-do’s.  If I wake up and have some energy to do a couple things I will, but I put zero pressure on myself to accomplish anything.  I sleep in an extra hour or two (which means up at 6 or 7 instead of 5), I rarely clean anything, I don’t do laundry, and my husband usually does the cooking.  This allows me to read a few more books to Ezekiel, to sit on the floor a little more with Eden, to write and read a bit more and maybe even spend some time on a hobby – which, with the changing of the weather means knitting!

Lots of lessons have been learned this year and resting is definitely one of the biggest.

Do you force yourself to rest? Is it hard or do you welcome it with arms wide open?

Practicing Positive


Good Friday Morning!

We’ve had quite the night and morning!

My non-cuddly baby has decided over the course of yesterday and today that she must be touching me at all times to be sleeping.  Last night she had to be cuddled up to me just so or she would wake up screaming.  This morning she wouldn’t settled to sleep in her crib and had to be on me at all times.  I just got her settled in the crib by putting her on her tummy – which is so unlike her because she normally hates her tummy.  Anyways, I woke up this morning an hour later than usual with my neck so sore and my head pounding (all fixed with a bit of oils!). I came downstairs to find my coffee machine had malfunctioned (AKA I didn’t put the pot under it just perfectly) so the coffee grounds were in the coffee and everywhere around it and it had spilled all over the coffee bar. My to-do lists this week haven’t been getting done so today it’s one huge long list that won’t get done yet again.

A couple weeks ago today would have totally been a write off in my mind. It would have made me irritable and impatient therefore ruining my kids days as well.  I would have moped around doing things here and there but not completing any of it and all the while grumbling and using a tone of voice that makes me cringe every time I use it.  I would have internally been screaming about the injustice of it all. A couple weeks ago today would have been the worst day ever (exaggeration much?), but I’ve been trying really hard to be intentional with my thought processes.  I’ve been acknowledging the negatives – yes the day has started out on the wrong foot, yes it’s not how I would have liked it to start.  After quickly acknowledging the crap I replace it with all the good – and there is a lot of good to be seen if only you take some time to look.

Todays list of good includes things like getting all the cuddle time in after thinking I’d never be able to cuddle my baby again.  Ezekiel is being amazing, playing quietly and entertaining himself while I have been trying to calm a fussy baby.  He’s using words like “delighted” (“I was delighted to clean up that mess I made by accident” – that’s an actual quote! Who is this kid??) and making my heart melt several times a day.  We had to cancel our plans today which sucks but it also gives me a big chunk of time to be productive and get some things done (water plants, clean the front closet, do dishes, fold laundry, make tomato sauce, clean floors …..).  Cancelled plans also means I get some time to cuddle without worrying about getting out the door, relax in my PJ’s all day, bake some muffins, put some effort into supper tonight (seriously lacking in that department lately).

I’ve found that practicing gratitude by focusing on the good instead of the bad has completely changed my day to day life.  It’s made me a much more patient mother and wife.  It’s helped me to breathe deep and embrace the moments of the day.  It’s helped me to think more clearly, dream a little more and understand that there is so much beauty in the imperfections of our days.  I’ve slowed down internally, my mind doesn’t race about all the things I want to accomplish and by slowing down internally I actually find I become more productive.  By focusing on the positives I’ve learned to stop and watch when Ezekiel says “Hey mom! Look at this!” and by stopping and watching I am acknowledging him as a person, as someone who is proud of what they’ve accomplished and I think that’s crucial to empowering the next generation.  I no longer glance for half a second and say “that’s great,” instead I put the dishes down look him in the eye and say, “Wow! You are really getting good at…..” I’ve noticed that this small change has made him less dependent on me and more independent when he’s playing.  Practicing gratitude has changed not only my day but the days of my little people as well and it’s shown me the impact of my actions on those around me.

I’m not going to lie, this is a difficult practice to implement consistently.  It’s so much easier to allow the negative to envelope me but the reward of this practice is unbelievable.  So today as you go about your day and the negative tries to invade your thoughts and actions I urge you to acknowledge them, let them go and replace them with positive thoughts.  I promise you that by practicing this you will not only change your day to day life but you will impact every person you come in contact with and little by little people’s lives will change around you.

Motherhood – The Secret To Success


Every morning I wake up between 5 and 530.

Yep it’s early but when I wake up (sometimes by my own internal clock and others by my babies hungry cries) I look forward to going down the stairs, pouring my hot cup of coffee, making my bowl of yogurt and granola and sitting on the couch with the fire going in silence and most importantly – alone.

I need that time, desperately need that time.  It doesn’t matter how many times I had to wake up in the night to give the baby her soother or feed her (typically it’s only twice but sometimes 3 or 4 times).  It doesn’t matter how tired I am, replacing that morning ritual with more sleep inevitably leads to my patience only lasting until 8 am instead of 6 pm.

It’s amazing to me how much I need that time in the morning.  That start to my day is the cornerstone of my sanity as a mother.

Sure there’s the odd day every so often, maybe once a month or once every 6 weeks, that the kids wake up abnormally early (6 am instead of 7 or 8) and I miss out on my morning time but we make it through those days.  I do a lot of deep breathing, a lot of reviewing my thoughts before they become words, maybe we watch an extra episode of a favourite show or maybe we just go out and have some fun instead of the doing the housework that was on the agenda.  Regardless, when the day is done so am I and I pray for more time the next morning to refill my introverted gas tank.

I often get asked how I do so many things, how am I so motivated?

This is my secret – I make sure I have some time alone, to recharge, to reflect, to journal, to read, to write, to listen, to pray, to meditate.  I start the day by setting my intentions and I end the day by reviewing how it went and what I can do better tomorrow.

Some people don’t thrive like this, they don’t crave an orderly, organized, routined environment, that helps them accomplish tasks at home.  Those people have different secrets to their motherhood successes and their successes are usually much different than mine.  Usually they are out on adventures, doing crafts, running errands and looking perfect while doing it.

The truth is they look at me and wish they could accomplish more at home and I look at them and wish I could provide more carefree adventures for my children (and look good doing it).

The other truth is even if both of us were granted our wishes we would feel no less fulfilled or happy, in fact we would probably feel frazzled and very unsatisfied.

Still more truth: though our lives look different we are both amazing mothers doing the best we can. 

The secret to every mothers success?

Mothering from the deepest parts of who we are and being true to that person, forgetting about every voice that tries to push us down and make us feel guilty for who we are or what we don’t accomplish that day.  Our success lies in the ability to understand that we are who we are and we were created to be the mother of these tiny little miracles.

Who I am…

IMG_1522

On July 13 I made a decision to take a social media break – at the time I only had Instagram.  It seemed like a decision made abruptly to those around me, but in truth it was a decision I had been contemplating for weeks if not months.  I didn’t plan to delete my Instagram app on July 13 but I had come to a place physically, mentally, and spiritually that I had had enough.  Enough of what? I actually wasn’t sure and for the past two months I couldn’t put my finger on it.  I knew that I felt God pulling me towards this break, to take time to focus my energies elsewhere (more on Him perhaps?).  So early in the morning in the midst of scrolling Instagram I exited out of the app and deleted it in the same breath.  Right after doing it I was in a bit of disbelief – did I really just do that?! Then the next thought – now what?

Well the summer went on, I did more soul searching, praying, reading, listening and honestly I felt no answers.  The first week and a bit I really missed it but after that life just went on and I barely thought about it.  Every so often I’d do a quick soul check and pray about getting it back but I never felt released to do so and I was perfectly OK with that.

Then a few weeks ago I decided to get Facebook back – if you know me you know this was a huge decision for me.  I’ve made my strong dislike for Facebook known, but it’s time to start getting rid of some baby gear and clothes and so I decided to get Facebook purely for the buy and sell groups and Varagesale.  I didn’t add any friends but several people found me, and slowly my friends list grew.  Then I joined a few Young Living groups and began to love them! Last night after a lot of debate and deliberation with myself I decided I would add all the people I knew that popped up on my suggested friends list.  I had this sudden urge to connect.  Similarly, today I re-downloaded Instagram and felt such a peace about it. Up until today I hadn’t fully known why I felt so strongly about deleting Instagram and although I had tried a few times to write about it and sort through my thoughts I never felt released to do that either.

Today though I finally feel like I have some clarity, and I feel released to write again.

At the time I didn’t realize how I was feeling – isolated, lonely, lost, trapped, no energy, lack of motivation.  I’m reluctant to say I was depressed – maybe it’s pride but truly I don’t feel as though I was truly depressed, I just lacked insight and that was bothering me and manifesting in depressive symptoms.  When I deleted the app I felt as though I had very little community that was true and real and I didn’t want to replace true community with false community.  Here’s where it gets good – today I had this amazing realization that ALL community is REAL community.  Online or in physical form – community is community, people are people.

I spent the last two months bouncing between trying to grasp physical community in full force – planning something several days of the week and being utterly exhausted from overbooking us and dealing with a baby that needed to catch up on sleep.  So one week I was a social butterfly, the next week I was a hermit.  Today I realized that I just needed to accept the place in life that I am and stop pitying myself and wishing I was in a different place. It took me deleting Instagram for me to be able to do that.  Now that I have it’s time to embrace all of who I am:

A mom of two – one being a baby that needs ample amounts of sleep.

A self proclaimed homebody.

A woman recovering from the most exhausting and taxing 2 years of life physically, mentally and emotionally.

A wife needing to connect and stay connected to her husband in a new season of life.

A friend who desires connection in all forms and desires to give that same connection back.

A beloved daughter of the King and member of His Kingdom.

I seriously feel so much more at peace, with who I am, where I am, and the communities I belong to.

What are you being challenged with?

 

 

Truth

If you are a woman who has had children, or anyone who has known a woman while she was carrying a child then you most likely know that the task is not an easy one.  It’s not all fun bump pics and planning nurseries.  It’s exhausted days, sickness for weeks (or months), growing out of clothing, adjusting to lots of new weight and a new centre of gravity, it’s painful kicks to ribs and cervixes, running to empty your measly bladder every 10 minutes, it’s new sensations and worries about each one – and the list goes on.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s also joy, expectations, dreams, anticipation and feelings of love like you’ve never had before (spoiler alert that love intensifies with every single day).

Yesterday I was having a conversation with a co-worker about my pregnancy.  She was wondering how I was feeling, I gave my usual response of a shrug and “not to bad actually” and then I said, “I actually don’t mind being pregnant at all.”  See, being pregnant with Marfan Syndrome poses some risks that aren’t always present in a healthy woman’s pregnancy and it also means that my joints have a much harder time adjusting to the extra hormones and weight that my body accumulates.  Most people think I’m crazy when I say I don’t mind being pregnant because they see me waddle around like I’m 40 weeks pregnant but the waddle starts around week 10-12 because my hips and my pelvis begin to become painful.  Usually the pain increases every 2-3 weeks and I mentally take about 5-7 days to adjust to the increase and then life is fine again.

Yesterday, however, I came home after work with pain that was normal and by the time I got into bed at 6:45pm I could barely lift my legs into the bed.  My pain had not only intensified this time but I began to have new pains that I had never experienced before.  I tried and tried and tried to get comfortable and finally fell into a very fitful uncomfortable sleep.  I woke up at 1:30 right on schedule with my bladder, and I couldn’t fall back asleep again but instead of it being simple pregnancy insomnia it was because I was still in so much pain.  Then I let the pain do something to me that I never let it do, I let it get to me mentally.  So I lay in bed last night going through all the what ifs in my life right now.

  • What if I can’t adjust to this pain this time?
  • What if the pain continues to get so bad I literally can’t walk?
  • What if I really do have to stop working early?
  • What if my last echo (on Nov 1) shows really bad news?
  • What if I have to have open heart surgery while pregnant or worse while I have a NICU baby?
  • What if I can’t carry this baby to full term?
  • What if we can’t pay our bills?
  • What if……

Honestly, it was ridiculous! Yes those are all risks of my pregnancy but as of right now they aren’t imminent risks (aside from the pain) and they aren’t risks I ever overly stress about.  As I lay in bed worrying about my ability to overcome my pain I let my mind get the best of me and finally I had to just yell at myself to STOP being so ridiculous.

I made myself remember the truth that I know:

  • This baby was conceived and given life for a reason beyond my ability to understand.

If I truly believe that (which I do) then I have to believe that every struggle along the road of bringing this babe Earth-side is not only worth it but also possible.  I also have to believe that life will work itself out, every detail will fall into place and every “what if” will fall to the wayside.  It might not be how I would like it to happen, and it might come with even more struggles but it WILL work out.

I wrote this all out, not just for my own processing, but also as a reminder to whoever reads it that life works itself out.  Whatever struggle you are dealing with – surrender to the process and remember that the end will come eventually, it’ll be hard and strenuous but it will be worth it.

Dreaming of Coffee

Guys.

I’m so excited right now.

For a long time I’ve dreamed (side note: I always feel like “dreamed” is an awkward word and try to use “dreamt” which isn’t a word, am I alone in this?!?) about having a separate space in our kitchen for a “coffee bar.”  I want all things coffee and tea to be off of my counter in it’s own cute little space.  Lately, it’s all I’ve been thinking about. I’ve literally been fixated on this idea.  I have it mostly planned out in my head and I’ve been on the hunt for good deals. The first step was finding a suitable piece of furniture to actually inhabit the coffee bar.

I’ve been checking Kijiji incessantly, several times a day – usually once every couple hours and of course in the middle of the night while I’m feeding Ezekiel.  My vision involves a french provincial buffet that I will refurbish myself in a shabby chic distressed white.  My budget is $75.  Do you know how hard it is to find an antique piece of furniture for $75? Nearly impossible! Most of what comes up is pieces of furniture that have already been refurbished – it’s a trend right now.  Everyone and their dog is searching for antiques to refurbish and sell.  The best I could find was an already refurbished buffet for $250-$500, definitely not in the budget!

Until…

A few days ago I found the perfect piece.  It’s not French Provincial but is antique, and has the long legs with no shelving on the bottom.  The best part? It comes with a large mirror, 2 chairs and a china cabinet that all match, for a measly $125!!

Are you jumping up and down in excitement for me?

Because I actually want to stop writing and jump up and down in excitement.

$50 over budget, but with 4 extra antique items, there was no way I could turn it down.

Also I just have to say I have the best friends ever, who also search Kijiji for me and then offer to pick up the items for me.

Seriously.

So.Blessed.

So to celebrate I’ve been on Pinterest finding inspirational photos.  It’ll be a while before it all comes together, but I thought I’d share some of my inspiration with you.

A Beautiful Mess - DIY PEG shelf

This Peg Shelf from A Beautiful Mess is a must! I’m thinking two shelves, the bottom pegged for cups.  The best part is it’s simple to build and budget friendly! But lets be honest, I’ll only start the building project before my husband gets nervous that I’ll cut off my hand and then finishes it for me.

Junk Chic Cottage - Coffee Bar

I almost died when I saw this.  This is coffee bar perfection! The white, the buffet, the shelves, the chalkboard.  I can’t handle it. You guys need to go check out Junk Chic Cottage for the full tour of this bar, it’s so great.

Natalie Creates Coffee Bar

Finally, this cute little space from Natalie Creates! I love that this space was created for under $150.  I love the decor on the shelves and that everything doesn’t perfectly match, but goes perfectly together! I actually already purchased two prints to be placed on our coffee bar shelves and I cannot wait to get them up!

As always I’ll be doing this slow and steady as our budget allows a few extra dollars here and there to finish the space but with the main item purchased I’m finding myself eager to get at it!  It’s not like I needed anything more on my to do list and I’m not going to pressure myself into getting this space finished in the next couple months, but I do want to get the buffet refurbished while the weather is still nice.  I figure two days of nap times should do it and I already have paint that was left in the house when we bought it, so all I have to purchase is some sandpaper!

I’ll keep you posted on the progress of my dream coffee bar.